Food waste has been a controversial subject around the world for decades. It’s estimated that more than 1.3 million tons of food is thrown away each year while there are people dying from malnutrition and hunger every single day.
For many years, attempts have been made to reduce this figure, but the results of the studies show that there is still a significant wastage of food each year.
The main criticism against the big distributors is that often a significant amount of their food ends up going to waste rather than being donated to the needy.
Last year for this reason, 35-year-old Arash Derambarsh proposed an initiative to create a law to prevent supermarkets from discarding unsold food.
The idea Arash put forth was for businesses to donate their unsold food to charity organizations and food banks so that it could be distributed to those in need.
After a massive campaign supported by consumers and activists fighting against poverty, the French Senate unanimously approved the law, benefiting thousands of homeless people.
France, the first place in the world to ban food waste
The French Senate’s decision made France the first country in the world to prevent supermarkets from wasting or destroying food.
Establishments of more than 400 square meters will be required to sign donation contracts with charities. Failure to do so will result in fines of up to 75,000 EUR or two years imprisonment.
This was joyful news for the charity organization promoters because this will increase the quality and diversity of the food that they receive to distribute.
Jacques Bailet, head of the French food bank network, expressed hope that the law will increase the donation of vegetables, fruits and meat as they are most in need of these foods.
The responsibility for the collection and storage of the food will fall on the registered charities and food banks, which hope to increase their staff to more effectively manage the new influx of food.
The law will also punish supermarkets that destroy foods on purpose, a practice that has become increasingly common to prevent people from rummaging in the trash and eating from dumpsters.
Unfortunately, the number of families, students and the unemployed looking in dumpsters for food thrown away for being close to its best before date has increased in recent years.
The downside is that many places spray the food with bleach after its thrown away to, according to them, prevent food poisoning from eating them in those types of conditions.
Others store waste food in private warehouses where it’s later collected by garbage trucks.
The next challenges for charities
With this first achievement, charities are preparing to meet the challenges that come with the changes in law.
The first will be to find more available volunteers to help with managing and distributing the food. They will also need more trucks, storage and refrigerators to address the increase in donations.
On the other hand, the main objective is to persuade the EU to consider enacting a similar resolution in other member states.
Food waste in France is comprised of 11% in stores, 67% from consumers and 15% in restaurants. The promoters of this initiative realize there’s still more work to be done.
However, with the enactment of this law, they know that they’ve already taken one of the most important steps towards a more conscious and sustainable society.
Bailet assures that an increase of just 15% in donations from supermarkets can help deliver 10 million more plates of food every year.
The long-term dream is for many countries to adopt similar laws to reduce waste, but above all to give them an opportunity to feed those in need.